A new smartphone app called Smart Sheriff can be easily hacked, thus raising security concerns, according to two reports.
Parents usually use child-monitoring apps in order to keep an eye on their children. With the app they can receive alerts when messages containing the words “pregnancy”or “bully” are sent from the smartphone that has the software installed. In addition, parents are able to block websites that they think are not suitable for their children to see.
In South Korea, an app called Smart Sheriff that was actually endorsed by the government, has serious security problems. Because of that, the personal information of both parents and children may easily be hacked, researchers said.
Unfortunately, people in South Korea do not have a say in this. As of April, the government issued a mandate that required all the smartphones that are sold to minors to come with the child-monitoring software. The Smart Sheriff app was also promoted in collaboration with several South Korean schools, according to the Associated Press.
The new mandate can only be avoided by not buying new smartphones and instead continue using the older ones.
Researchers working at Cure53, a software auditing company in Germany, as well as the researchers from Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto in Canada, pointed out a number of flaws that the software had.
The Smart Sheriff app lacked proper encryption of the emails, phone numbers, web browsing history, and of the children’s birthdays. That meant that the information could be used by a third party.
“Smart Sheriff is the kind of babysitter that leaves the doors unlocked and throws a party where everyone is invited,” stated Collin Anderson, an independent researcher who worked together with Citizen Lab.
There is also a problem with the fact that the software has to be installed on all of the smartphones from now on, with no exception.
In April, Open Net Korea, a non-governmental organization that focuses on the freedom of South Korea’s internet stated that: “The Decree is unconstitutional as it infringes on children’s privacy and parental rights, increases the risk of data breach, and overburdens both the business and the parents.”
Other similar monitoring apps have been used in order stalk people. For instance there have been numerous cases when spouses used to track their significant other in order to find out whether they were cheating. Worldwide, people are getting concerned since these apps may be used by dangerous stalkers, according to the BBC.
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